The man who has discovered the cause of Tutankhamun’s death is delighted with his discoveries in Zagreb.
Frank Ruhli is the world’s greatest mummy expert who has studied hundreds of mummified remains from Egyptian and other ancient civilizations. He has worked, among other projects, on Tutankhamun’s remains, and concluded that the famous Pharaoh was not killed, as it was previously believed, but that he rather died of malaria, reports Jutarnji List on September 4, 2018.
He also confirmed that the remains in a church in Aachen belonged to Charles the Great, and he defined that the legendary Oetzi, the oldest mummified body ever found, about 5,300 years old, died from a sting and not from starvation and cold.
The head of the Institute of Evolutionary Medicine at the University of Zurich has visited Zagreb recently where he has presented the results of his research into parts of the Egyptian collection of the Archaeological Museum in Zagreb. The research was carried out in conjunction with local experts – including Mislav Čavka, a radiologist from the Dubrava Clinical Hospital – but also with colleagues from abroad.
The research was carried out on vases found in graves of ancient Egyptians. The internal organs removed during the mummification process were deposited in these vases, and the procedure was aimed at releasing the soul from the body. The vases usually contained the liver, the lung, the stomach and the intestines. The ancient Egyptians believed that these organs were connected with worldly life and prevented the rising of the soul into heavens. Their content transformed over time into black masses, which were variously affected by additional chemical processes.
Out of 30 vases kept at the Archaeological Museum, the content was found in four – dust in some and solid pieces of tissue in fragments in others. The tissues were first analyzed genetically, but the researchers did not succeed in getting DNA from the remains.
“It is very difficult to get a sample that is suitable for genetic analysis. The remains from Egypt have been heavily contaminated: in Egypt, temperatures and humidity are high, chemicals used during the mummification have not helped to preserve DNA, and there have been many chemical modifications for other reasons, environmental and human influences,” the scientist explained.
Despite the absence of genetic material, the research is likely to leave a deep mark on science because the dense tissue remains found in the vases will be useful for further research, since this is the first instance that magnetic resonance imaging was used. In addition to his work on archaeological cases, Ruhli is well-known precisely for using in his archaeological research the methods which have been affirmed in the clinical environment. “These are methods which have already been proven and are readily available. They should be used for archaeological purposes as well. Although, of course, it is always necessary to experiment with new methods as well,” said Ruhli.
The mummy doctor explained how much his profession has changed in the last twenty years. “Technology has progressed fundamentally. Now we have excellent tools for visualizing the objects we are studying, and we can also examine them with MRI, which has greatly changed our field of research. On the other hand, the genetic analysis is now far more precise,” said the scientist, adding that he enjoyed working on the Croatian collection.
“The collection is beautiful and very broad. It contains a diverse spectrum of Egyptian sarcophagus, even human and animal material, and you also have an Etruscan mummy. Also, it is a collection which is actively involved in research, which contributes greatly to the science, and that is very important,” said the scientist at the conclusion of his third visit to Zagreb.
Translated from Jutarnji List (reported by Tena Šarčević).